I still can’t believe that we’ll have a new version of SQL Server this year. After speaking at so many events last year, talking about the new features of SQL Server 2016, it seems crazy that there’s a new version coming out a year later. Welcome to the new world of DevOps, fast engineering processes, and the increasing pace of software releases from vendors. We can debate the wisdom or value of this, and you might not like it, but it’s certainly the reality of today.
The first Release Candidate (RC) for SQL Server 2017 is available this week. The big change for RC1 is that we can now use Active Directory authentication on Linux, and we get SSIS on Linux. There are a few other items, but these are the big ones. I guess SSIS scale out is a big deal for some people as their data load times increase, but I’d think that is a relatively small number of people. I’d also be wary of having clustering support for my ETL workloads, all of which haven’t been designed for that environment. I would see this feature as being more important and valuable over time. For now, let the SSIS gurus develop some patterns and practices that make sense for us to follow.
There are other new features in SQL Server 2017, and I’d urge you to play with them a bit. Upgrades are always tricky to justify for me, as I’m sure they are for you. If you don’t know how the new features work, or how they might apply to your systems, how can you decide what to do?
I tend to favor sticking with what works for older systems and moving to new versions for newer systems. Your view might vary, and certainly unless you want to setup SQL Server instances on Linux, I’m not sure 2017 offers a lot over 2016. In fact, I’d accelerate any SQL 2016 instance installations I could to avoid being trapped with SQL 2017 licenses and the chance that price or licensing terms will change. If there were features that made significant advances for my current system, I’d certainly look at SQL Server 2017.
Since I tend to only move to newer versions when there is a good reason or a new install is being performed, I like the rapid release cadence. With the deployment and testing in Azure, it seems to me the quality of SQL Server keeps increasing, and the rapid releases allow new changes to come out sooner rather than later. With a version every 18 months (my guess at the new pace), I can adopt new features relatively quickly if I think they are beneficial.
That being said, SQLServerCentral still runs on SQL Server 2008. It works, and we really just would like a core database engine. I do find it strange to work on the 2008 version of T-SQL as some of the data analysis I try to do is harder to write. I’d really like to upgrade and hopefully we’ll make a good enough case to try and move to SQL 2017 late this year or next. Maybe then we can get the chance to play with some graph capabilities and add them to SQLServerCentral, comparing them to good old relational queries in real time.